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My manager is a big fan of the company we work at.

EVERYTHING the company is doing is GREAT / AMAZING / ....

For example:

  • If the company reported it has a new customer, the boss will immediately start talking about how this is an amazing customer and a great deal for the company
  • If the company gives us laptop bags, they are the BEST bags ever created and the company is doing AMAZING work by giving us these bags.

If one of us even dares to say something that does not accept this amazingness ("well, I find the bag not that pretty" / "working with customer X will bring the challenge of Y") he will take it personally as if you said something against him. He is not joking with his statements.

Other than saying nothing and/or playing the game ("Ho, what an AMAZING new coffee cups they bought. And look at the SLOGAN they printed on the wall!!!") do you have any other tips?

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  • The best laptop bags are the most expensive line that Thule makes. (And the best color is that purple!) – Fattie Jun 3 at 13:45
  • Sounds like downright arrogant and bullying behaviour, if every event is recast into disingenuous salesman's puff, and he reacts to any refuting as if it is a personal attack. – Steve Jun 3 at 14:00
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    What do you hope to gain? What's wrong with just keeping your mouth shut? – Joel Etherton Jun 3 at 14:18
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    Please clarify: is this about just bags and clients, or also about procedures, policy, and other aspects of daily work? Are we safe implying this is indeed about everything and anything? (I feel the laptop bag example had an unintended impact on some interpretations...) – Levente Jun 3 at 22:39
  • Recently I heard about someone as you describe. Everything was great, everyone with another opinion was wrong and got put down. As time went by it showed that it's nothing but hot air and no effects... until those responsible for his position decided to remove the person from their function. Then things started to get a chance to get well. If I only knew who it was... – puck Jun 4 at 16:50
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Why fight the system?

The workplace has many occasions where we are expected to say things which we do not believe. What is one more?

Workplace examples:

  • You are leaving for some amazing new opportunity and no other reason, even if you are not. Don't want to burn the bridge.

  • You are happy in your job during reviews, even if you are not. Don't want awkwardness while sticking around searching for another job.

  • You are planning to stay long term at your new company, even if you are not.

  • You are passionate about X that the company is doing, even if you are not.

  • You want the job because you enjoy X, and want to work with Y, rather than needing employment or just wanting money.

  • In interviews, your last boss was a great leader, even if he never showed up for work and constantly called you rude names.

In the same way that you are expected to praise a 4 year old for their drawing even if it is indistinguishable from the work of a crazed chicken, you should do so here.

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    I'm seriously mixed between upvoting for the sad truth, or downvoting for the ethic xD, or should I say it's challenging ? – Walfrat Jun 3 at 14:08
  • I had to upvote after imagining the boss as a 4 year old crazed chicken. – thursdaysgeek Jun 3 at 15:15
  • This attitude is why places like N. Korea exist today. If you aren't true to yourself, others won't be to you. – Denis G. Labrecque Jun 5 at 0:34
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No. If your boss has drunk the kool-aid, you need to play the game too.

At the very least, if you say something that is somewhat negative, try to make it less coarse.

"I find this bag isn't as awesome as the others."

"I know we can raise up to the challenge of working with customer X, despite Y"

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Declaring everything as perfect as possible all the time blocks any initiatives aimed at actually improving things. Improving, as in, pointing out if something works sub-optimally, and going about applying fixes.

Your boss' attitude seems to have been designed to silence these voices exactly (and therefore they block any improvements).

Continuous improvement

— to keep an organization in good shape

To illustrate my point, I introduce the PDCA continuous improvement principle, used in quality management.

PDCA stands for:

  1. Plan
  2. Do
  3. Check (as in check if it works as intended; does it actually present any flaws?)
  4. Adjust (if C had found something, let's fix it in this stage)

The latter two items, C and A are the feedback stage, where you:

  • acknowledge shortcomings / learn from mistakes, and
  • correct them as best as you can

Your manager's conduct is blocking these latter steps.

While this process is used in product design / development, I believe it illustrates well how acknowledging issues is an indispensable stage in improving things and fixing issues.

Any downside or conflict?

The difficulty seems to arise from how the above concept on its own does not seem to offer a ready answer for respecting authority. Admittedly, hierarchy and / or authority are things that a lot of organizations are utilizing in their operations to more or less extent.

At this point however, in your organization, someone needs to evaluate whether propping up authority unconditionally or addressing the company's (or department's) issues is more important.

If this happens in a small company, over the long term this seems to set things up for degradation in a wide range of aspects. (The last time I have experienced a pattern comparable to your situation (even if waaay less pronounced), it caused lingering frustration, and led to the company continuously losing talent.)

In preparation of things getting slowly worse — to an extent that you could find too much to tolerate — brush up on your CV and have a plan on how to move on if necessary.

Updated scope: a department or a subdivision

Let's see the specifics if this happens in a department or a sub-division of a large company:

In such case your manager is acting as a hype-man and a bouncer in one, defending- and getting company procedure enforced — "as unchallenged as possible"

This however does not change much about how problems in the department are suppressed. The detrimental outcome may however be mitigated by the influence from global company policy / culture, upholding the status quo; even in the face of continuous frustration.

The human factor

The tensions present in this environment seem to strongly impact how you feel on the "Esteem / feeling accomplished" level of Maslow's pyramid: as in, your voice is not being heard, and your contributions (in some very meaningful contexts) are dismissed even before their conception.

You don't need to blame yourself for frustration here. In this environment, it's not on you.

So, depending on how (un)well you take chronic frustration, consider keeping your CV up to date, and being prepared to move.

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  • Excellent point regarding "Continuous Improvement". With that said, if the boss is really talking about the latest customer or about the latest swag item. It's probably not worth saying anything. Swag items are going to be cheap. You probably already own a $200 laptop bag that is 100 times better. But to the company, it's probably worth it to buy 10,000 $5 laptop bags with their logo printed on them. Personally, this is not something that would bother me. I would just play the game (even if I thought that my boss was a dufus for saying something like that in the first place). – Stephan Branczyk Jun 3 at 22:25
  • @StephanBranczyk I focused on the part when OP quoted their manager: "EVERYTHING the company is doing"; I took it, the swag items are just an illustration — even if not with the most potential. Time will tell: I hope OP will let us know. – Levente Jun 3 at 22:28
  • On a related note, TIL why using comments for clarification up front is an advisable habit... (it's like the feature exists for the very purpose!) :) – Levente Jun 3 at 22:33

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